Saturday, April 06, 2019

Praying in Pennsylvania

On Monday, March 25, a prayer by a Christian lawmaker in Pennsylvania stirred up a hornet’s nest. Before each session the House rules call for opening in prayer as the first order of business. That Monday, the opening prayer was given by freshman Representative Stephanie Borowicz. If transcribe correctly, here is what she said:
Let’s pray. Jesus, I thank you for this privilege, Lord, of letting me pray, God, that I, Jesus, am your ambassador here today, standing here representing you, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Great I Am, the one who is coming back again, the one who came, died, and rose again on the third day. And I’m so privileged to stand here today, so thank you for this honor, Jesus. God, for those that came before us like George Washington and Valley Forge, and Abraham Lincoln who sought after you in Gettysburg, Jesus, and the founding fathers at Independence Hall, Jesus, that sought after you and fasted and prayed for this nation to be founded on your principles and your word and your truth. God forgive us. Jesus, we’ve lost sight of you. We’ve forgotten you, God, in our country, and we’re asking you to forgive us, Jesus, as your promise in your word says that if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek your face, and turn from their wicked ways, that you will heal our land. Jesus, you are our only hope. God, I pray for our leaders, Speaker Turzai, Leader Cutler, Governor Wolf, President Trump for his [stance] that he stands beside Israel unequivocally, Lord. Thank you, Jesus, that we’re blessed because we stand by Israel, and we ask for the peace of Jerusalem as your word says, God. We ask that we not be overcome by and that we overcome evil with good in this land once again. I claim all these things in the powerful, mighty, name of Jesus, the one who at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord. In Jesus name. Amen.
Her prayer has brought rancor, condemnation, applause for a Muslim prayer, and a Resolution “urging members of the House of Representatives who have the opportunity to offer a prayer in the course of a legislative session to craft a prayer respectful of all religious beliefs.” What irony that the decriers evidently wish to be “respectful of all religious beliefs” except beliefs like those of Representative Borwicz! Democratic Governor Tom Wolf – one of those prayed for – was “horrified” by the prayer and averred, “Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn on the basis of freedom of conscience” – just not freedom of conscience for Stephanie Borowicz or those who believe as she does! Freedom only for those who kowtow to the beliefs of Wolf and those on his side. Very few like Wolf see the contradictions of their own claims.

I would not have prayed as did this representative. Her prayer seems sort of weird, according to my own standards. However, it is never inappropriate for a person to pray according to her sincerely held religious beliefs just because someone is present who holds different beliefs, or someone disagrees. Prayer is an act of communing with and/or making a petition to God. If this legislature really intends to have prayer, then leave each pray-er to pray according to the dictates of his or her own heart with governmental interference. Anything less is either a sham or a formality.

I liked the “old days,” when we stood for free exercise and free speech even for those who differed with us, rather than limiting free exercise and free speech to that which agrees with our own opinions.

  • “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – Thomas Jefferson
  • “Every man must give an account of himself to God, and therefore every man ought to be at liberty to serve God in that way that he can best reconcile to his conscience.” – John Leland
  • “The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.” – James Madison
  • “Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend…The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express ‘the thought that we hate’.” – Samuel Alito, in Metal v. Tam
  • “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – G. K. Chesterton

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